Don Rogers: The cards we’re dealt
Was it something I said? Maybe what I didn’t. I know I can be a bit more “did you get this, and this?” than “thanks, nice work.”
A leadership adage in vogue these days goes something like “people don’t quit the job, they quit their boss.”
Ouch. But Brian shakes his head. No, it’s not that. You’ve all been great, he says. Rogers, Hemig, Schmall, Ackerman, Starren, his parade of publishers. But he can say that now, right?
The nightmare soon will be over. The next gig surely will be easier. Don’t burn bridges. Leave on good terms. More adages; I know ’em well. Those were my thoughts from some of my stops, not his after two decades in Nevada County, though I’m sure they occurred on occasion.
Early on, I made a career out of leaving newsrooms and telling my bosses the right things, which were easier to say in all honesty when looking back: I’m indebted. You really pushed me. Thanks for the, um, challenge. I grew from this experience, the wounds are healing nicely, any scarring will only build character. Uh, huh.
And then on to the next stop and the next. In my case seven papers in the ’90s between both coasts. Only then did I begin to learn the lessons Brian already knew from recognizing right away he’d found a home here.
I wish I could get on my knees, swear to change my ways, be more, you know, appreciative, less biting, a hair less sarcastic, not so overbearing. Anything. Just don’t go.
Oh yeah, I’m not proud. I’d beg if there were any shot at all.
Brian is a quarterback in the newsroom, doubly fitting because that was his position in high school, triply fitting because I believe his favorite job of all was sports editor.
Big heart, rallying the team for one more big drive, waving everyone in, calling plays, slapping … well, the comparison goes so far. Lots of touchdowns, anyway. His fans go nuts. I’m one.
What I love about sports editors: They are the ones who keep the flame lit, honor the traditions, know that it’s about the story — the heart — not so much the score itself. This is why they make great city editors and then editor editors, always mindful this is about what matters for the reader.
We’d known each other awhile, being in the same company. That’s an advantage. At least you have an understanding of the deck you’ve been dealt if you are me, transferring from another paper, or him, being dealt yet another publisher, all these jokers. I know. I was an editor once.
I knew I had a core, singular talent to build around. This is how coaches of sports teams and publishers of papers think. Who gets it, really gets it, reflects their community, rallies their staff.
So his dreaded “Got a minute?” was a gut punch. Oh no. Come on. This can’t be true. Not you.
Future is now
Ace in the hole. Is that the term? But don’t let the poker face fool you. Alan will do fine. Better than fine. Just different than Brian. Welcome the card dealer, the honest broker, the maestro. He’s been tuning up.
Alan has been guiding the local news report for the past year, sliding so smoothly and naturally into this role after four years of reporting here. He’s also been herding those cats we call our community editorial board, a dozen or so residents in western Nevada County with worldviews ranging across the full spectrum, and then turning their musings into cogent and even sharp Our Views. He doesn’t know I’ve had much the same in mind for the Sierra Sun, post pandemic.
Brian benefited from two decades serving the same community in the same newsroom. Lots of wisdom and feeling for a place comes from that. Alan, more like me, has learned through experience at several stops, taking a bit of this and a bit of that over the past couple of decades to apply now.
I’ve worked with a few strong journalists over the years — a former Ernie Pyle winner who was still hungry after retiring out of The New York Times, a member of the LA Times Pulitzer team on Watts, lots and lots of bright kids and unheralded elders every bit the match of my elite colleagues.
Alan reminds me a lot of my mentor from The New York Times — quick as well as sharp, along with that intangible we like to call a nose for the news. He, too, honors the best ideals of the profession, and there actually is much honor in it at the community level, which I’ll declare the highest in fact if not recognition.
Brian quarterbacked. Alan will play his hand, this opportunity, well. I picture him tapping a baton to a music stand, editions singing.
My nightmare, my dream. Fine then. Cue the new symphony. Let it begin.
Don Rogers is the publisher of the Sierra Sun and The Union, based in Grass Valley. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-477-4299.
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